“They said to him, ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’”
+ In the Name of God the Loving Creator, the Light of the World, and the Life-giving Spirit. Amen.
John the Baptist is a character who pops up every ear in Advent and appears again today. In the Gospel last week, Jesus sought out John at the River Jordan and asked to be baptized. In the Gospel today, John makes an astonishing proclamation about cousin Jesus: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” .
Throughout scripture, lambs are symbols of gentleness. When John identifies Jesus as the “Lamb of God” he is giving us an epiphany of the surprisingly gentle way that God deals with our shortcomings, our failures, and our sins. We might expect that we deserve rebuke and judgment, but, in fact, we get an innocent lamb who will go to the slaughter for us—the cross—and take away the sin of the world. And it is this Lamb of God that takes away our great burden, our great guilt, our great shame by entering our world and becoming one of us.
If we fast forward again, we find John standing with two of his followers. He points Jesus out to them. Again, he says, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” Now they are paying attention. He has piqued their curiosity and so they trail along after Jesus to see just what he is all about. “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks.
That’s a fair question. It’s also a question he might ask of us. “What are you looking for?” I am sure that your answers would illustrate the diversity of any congregation where it is asked. There may be those who, like Andrew and Peter, are here because someone has pointed them in the direction of Jesus. There may be those who are seeking a deeper understanding of just exactly what faith means and who God is. There may be those who are in church because something has led them through the doors and they feel the need to be here, even if they can- not articulate exactly what that is. Some of us, like Andrew and his companion, came here from another faith tradition, denomination, or parish and, like them we came to see—and stayed.
“What are you looking for?” Jesus has this answer, “Come and see!” Thinking again about Andrew and the others who trailed after Jesus that day, I imagine that they might have thought of following Jesus was a little bit like going to the circus. What excitement! What fun! What prospects! The appeal of the Big Top. “I’ll even go find my brother,” Andrew thought, “so that he might have the same opportunity to drop everything and join up. They certainly did not consider the risk involved—only the promise. Little did they know that following him was a process, not a completed event, and how this journey would end.
The late Mike Yaconelli, author of Messy Spirituality: God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People, gave an interview before his death in which he said how tired he was of hearing religious speakers tell how perfect they were and who always seemed to have answers for other people’s lives. “You and I are incomplete,” he said, “I’m unfinished. I’m unfixed. And the reality is that that’s where God meets me—in the mess of my life, in the unfixedness, in the brokenness.”
Today’s Gospel is for us—for imperfect followers of Jesus who are, nevertheless, still alive, still struggling, seeking to grasp the nature of this radical grace that has been unleashed on the world by a God who really is living among us.
Epiphany as an encounter with revelation also calls forth a response from us. God’s invitation to us is that “come and see”—some and see a God who loves with sustaining concern; a God who loves unconditionally; come and see what God has in store for us; come and see God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People; come and see where the journey might take you.
But that “come and see” has a follow up of “go and tell.” Having come to know Jesus by personal encounter, Andrew does not keep the “great Eureka” to himself. He responds to the revelation of Jesus by going to find his brother Simon, and then telling him about Jesus. Was this enough? Evidently not. The text never says that Simon was immediately convinced that Jesus was the Anointed One. It is only after Andrew brings him—after Simon has experienced his firsthand version of “come and see”—that he too becomes a believer and a disciple.
The Bible Study group on Wednesday was reading a commentary on some texts from Matthew’s Gospel as they apply to the way we live as followers of Jesus. A phrase that appeared twice in one paragraph was about our call to “expand the kingdom,” which for me speaks to the Gospel event we read today; to the “come and see” and the “go and tell.” How do we expand the kingdom right here in this congregation, in the wider community?
Where in our day to day plodding through life might we find opportunities to be an “Andrew,” to be invitational to others about the experience of God we have found here with and even through one another?
When you happen upon someone whom life has dealt a really raw deal, maybe an unexpected medical diagnosis or a broken relationship or a sudden loss of a job or a loved one, or heartbreaking family conflicts and troubles, take a risk like Andrew did; invite them to “come and see.” Tell them that there’s no wrong reason to go to church; that they can belong before they believe.
Finding. Telling. Inviting. Bringing. These are the principles of Andrew’ mission, and they all imply effort. One supposes that Jesus could have waved a magic wand and the whole of Israel could have been converted in the blink of an eye. But this is not the way. So Go and tell. Go and tell. Go and tell. Just like Andrew did!